Jill M. Caliendo
March 1, 2001
Photos By: John McCartney

The gamble paid off. For this year's Fords at Englishtown event, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park management took a chance and moved this monster east coast event from the sticky month of July to the much cooler days of late October. The change was implemented to allow racers to take advantage of the great weather and track conditions found later in the racing season, not to mention giving it a date that wouldn't conflict with other major races on the ever-tightening Ford schedule. They hit paydirt, as the event was a big hit with racers, many of whom recorded career best elapsed times and speeds.

Because Fords At E-Town is an independent race, the organizers needed a rules structure that was fair to all competitors. Since many of the heads-up competitors were the same as you would find on the NMRA and Fun Ford circuits, the folks at E-Town decided to use a combination of the pair's rules where the heads-up classes were concerned. Pro 5.0 and Outlaw were run as separate classes, while Hot Street/Street Bandit and Renegade were combined to run as one class. Renegade cars ran at their respective legal weights, while all naturally aspirated cars in Hot Street and Bandit raced at 2,900 lbs. In addition, the E-Town gathering also featured separate Modular Motor, Radial Tire runners, Ford truck and Open Comp classes.

Ford racers filled the park on the opening Friday night for time trials and the Mustang vs. Camaro vs. Firebird challenge that paid a cool $1000 to the winner. The final came down to the '85 Mustang of Paul Guenther and the '79 Camaro of Brian Brown. When the tree went green, it was Brown out of the gate first with a .516 light to Guenther's .609. With nearly a tenth to make up, Guenther broke out, handing Brown the win and the beans.

Friday night also served as a test and tune for many of the top Mustang racers who wanted to dial in for the weekend. Dwayne "Big Daddy" Gutridge displayed his new single-turbo drag radial wonder car, a Reef Blue LX with all the trimmings. On its maiden run, the LX tore from the line with the turbo screaming and almost instantly the left rear axle broke sending the newly built LX sideways and out of control. Big Daddy did all he could to keep the car on track, but with only the passenger-side wheel driving the car, the LX moved hard to the left and tagged the retaining wall, first with the back of the car and then with the front. Gutridge was fine; too bad the same couldn't be said for his once-fresh LX.

Just hours later on Saturday morning, the Real Street, (modeled after MM&FF/FFW's popular True Street class), competitors piled in. Some 60 racers prepared for the 30-mile road tour and drag race event. With gas tanks full, and the driver's meeting complete, Sgt. Rich Maxwell of the Colts Neck Police, along with Monmouth County Sheriff officers Jimmy Doyle and Glenn Engelken, led the train of Mustangs (and one Lincoln) out of the track and through beautiful Monmouth County, N.J. All but one car made the entire trip and after returning to the track, the cars got their mandatory 30-minute cool down, before their trio of quarter-mile runs.

When racing began, fans in the stands paid close attention, throwing a cheer every time a Mustang clicked off a quick ET. In the first set, Alex Vrettos, in his bright orange GT, laid down a 10.88, the quickest pass of that session. Vrettos was followed closely by Connecticut's Duncan Milne, who ran 11.03 with his '93 LX. In round two, Vrettos slowed to an 11.00, while Milne drove to a quicker 10.78. With one run to go, the battle was building between the pair.

In the final run, Vrettos went first, but he slowed to a 11.12, giving him a final average of 11.005 seconds. After about 30 more cars had run, it was Milne's turn to play. The black LX with a large rose sprayed on the hood launched hard, but much like Vrettos, the Connecticut runner was unable to dip into the 10s and slowed to an 11.15. Despite the drop off in ET, Milne's final average remained in the 10s with a 10.990, just .005 seconds over Vrettos, the closest margin of victory in the four year history of the class at E-town.

With the Real Street show complete, the track unleashed the rest of the cars for qualifying and bracket time trials. After a fine showing at the J&P Shootout, Dino Erickson of Long Island blasted to the Pro 5.0 pole, running a 7.40 at 189 mph with his single turbo 5-speed LX. However, it was discovered that his LX did not have the proper chassis certification so the run was disqualified and Erickson was told not to run quicker than 7.50 for the remainder of the event. The next-best qualified car belonged to ELD's Brian Bossone at 7.62, so he was given the top spot, which changed the ladder and gave Bossone the all-important first round bye run. Behind Bossone came Jim Briante and Anthony DiSomma, who were both in the 7s. The lone 8-second car belonged to Norris McKoy.